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Pop Warner changes practice rules to prevent concussions

Thursday, June 14, 2012, 7:21am
(NECN) - Pop Warner football players won't be taking quite as many hits from now on. The youth organization said it is limiting contact in practice to try and make the game safer for young players starting this year. 

It said coaches must limit contact to no more than one-third of their practice time. It is also banning full-speed, head-on blocking or tackling drills in which players line up more than 3 yards apart. 

The organization says coaches can have full-speed drills where players approach each other at an angle but "not straight ahead into each other." 

It also says there should be no head-to-head contact. 

The rule changes announced Tuesday were developed by Pop Warner's medical advisory board as part of its effort to reduce the risk of concussions.

Diana Cutaia, Director of Athletics and Sport Based Initiatives at Wheelock College, joined "The Morning Show" to discuss the new rules.

Cutaia says the rule changes are made to create a more safe environment, and are an important step, but training coaches on proper techniques are very important. 

Understanding athlete development is critical, Cutaia says. Most young players necks are not strong and do not promote proper technique. They look like bobble heads with those helmets. No one is teaching coaches how to fit helmets, or make sure they are safe year to year after repeated use. 

  • Other steps Cutaia recommends:

- Put in established protocols for head injury ( i.e who makes the decision on if a kid returns to play after a hit?)
- Train coaches, athletes and parents on protocols and symptoms of a concussion. 
- Delay exposure of young athletes to contact and collision sports. 
Brain injury can have an accumulative affect - the earlier we expose the developing brain to injury the more damage can be done.

For parents and coaches:

Here are some great resources for parents and coaches from the CDC,

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